“Blazing Saddles,” The Best Interracial Buddy Comedy, Turns 40

Mel Brooks’ Western spoof Blazing Saddles turns 40 Friday, and along with its over-the-top jabs at racism and Hollywood, it set the gold standard for what is now an overused cinema trope: the interracial buddy comedy.

You’ll have to track down a DVD — Blazing Saddles is glaringly absent from Netflix’s streaming service. But here’s the gist of the film: The no-good State Attorney General Hedley Lamarr (not to be confused with the actress of a similar name, Hedy Lamarr) wants to build a railroad through the quaint fictional town of Rock Ridge. Hoping to scare off the townsfolk and prepare the way for a land grab, Lamarr sends in the first black sheriff, a former railroad worker named Black Bart, played by Cleavon Little. The plan backfires, though, when Bart teams up with local gunslinger Jim (Gene Wilder). Together, they win over the unrepentantly racist town and save Rock Ridge from near destruction. Along the way there are a few gunfights, Mel Brooks as a Yiddish-speaking Native American chief, Madeline Kahn in a corset, and the invention of the candygram. The end.

In his tepid New York Times review, Vincent Canby called the film “every Western you’ve ever seen turned upside down and inside out.” But the real heart of the movie — the “center of gravity” that Canby lamented was missing from the story — is the relationship between Bart and Jim.

Read the rest at NPR’s Code Switch.


From Code Switch’s 2013 Signoffs II: More Short Stories About Remarkable Lives

Cecilia Preciado Burciaga opened doors into higher education that had been closed to Latino and Chicano Americans.

As one of the first top Latina administrators at Stanford University, Burciaga never stopped thinking about “the ones not there,” she said in an interview with The Christian Science Monitor. And the ones not there were Latinos and Chicanos, who prior to the 1970s made up a disproportionately small number of students in higher education. When she started at Stanford in 1974, just 2 percent of the student body was Mexican American; Burciaga was just one of a handful of Chicanos on staff, according to Notable Hispanic American Women.

You can read more about Cecilia Burciaga and other amazing figures here